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PA- Local prison suicide fueled by taunting

12-17-2008 Pennsylvania:

Death of accused child molester probed. Jail procedures studied.

Lancaster County Prison inmates relentlessly taunted a suspected child molester, urging him to kill himself, right up until the moment he did so four weeks ago in Lancaster County Prison.

Sources within the prison have told the New Era that Luis David Villafane hanged himself with a knotted bedsheet in cell block C, also known as "the hole," while prisoners in nearby cells egged him on.

County Commissioner Scott Martin, chairman of the Prison Board, verified that account this morning.

"There were some in there who were yelling for him to do it and 'let him hang,' " Martin said.

It was not clear why prison guards did not intervene in the hanging.

But Martin said prison guards "did everything they could" after the hanging. "They tried to give him CPR before he died."

Cell block C, a group of older cells in the basement of the prison, houses inmates who are being disciplined. They are permitted to leave their small individual cells for only one hour a day.

Martin said Villafane had been transferred to cell block C following a disciplinary hearing and killed himself within 20 minutes of arriving there.

Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said that an autopsy he performed on Villafane's body showed that the inmate had died of hanging on Nov. 19.

Asked if there were other marks on Villafane's body, Diamantoni said, "None of the marks on his body would have contributed to his death." He did not elaborate.

Martin said Villafane had recently suffered an injury to his mouth, not as a result of being hit, but possibly from hitting the floor.

Prison staff and Lancaster City Police are investigating the death.

Prison Warden Vincent Guarini did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Lancaster City Detective Chris DePatto said the investigation remains open.

In addition, Martin said, the county Prison Board has convened a group of community medical and mental health experts to examine the circumstances around Villafane's death.

Martin is asking the group, "Is there something different that we could be doing that might have prevented this?"

Villafane, 28, was the son of Augustina Villafane, of Lancaster Township. No one answered the telephone or doorbell at her home Tuesday or this morning.

Villafane, who told police he was born in Bellefonte, was arrested for the first time in Lancaster 10 years ago.

He was incarcerated at the county prison seven times for alleged offenses ranging from theft and marijuana possession to disorderly conduct and corruption of minors.

His latest arrest — last June — was for raping a person less than 13 years old. The offense dated to 2001. The victim was "between 6 and 7" when the crime took place, according to court records.

Villafane's bail was set at $750,000. He killed himself before he could be tried for the crime.

The prison is being sued by the families of two other men who committed suicide while incarcerated. James Hodapp Jr. hanged himself in 2003. Joseph Keohane hanged himself in 2006. ..Source.. by JACK BRUBAKER, Staff Writer

PA- Report: No drugs in prisoner death

2-27-2009 Pennsylvania:

2-5-2009 Pennsylvania:

Toxicology report on inmate who committed suicide shows no alcohol or drugs in Luis Villafane’s body.

Toxicology test results show there were no alcohol or drugs in the body of Luis Villafane when he hanged himself in Lancaster County Prison Nov. 19, 2008.

Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said the toxicology report completes the autopsy and does not change his earlier report that the inmate died of "passive hanging and suicide."

Villafane, an accused child molester, tied knots in his bed sheet and hanged himself in his cell on C-2 block, the prison's disciplinary area also known as "the hole."

At the December Lancaster County Prison Board meeting, Warden Vincent Guarini said he had determined that staff performance in reaction to the suicide was "appropriate and the staff response was immediate."

Guarini also said inmates on that cell block "were harassing (Villafane) about his charges. We are discussing this aspect with city police."

Lancaster City Police Detective Chris DePatto said this week that he has concluded an investigation of the incident and is waiting to see the autopsy report before reaching a final determination in the matter.

Asked if he had investigated any crime related to the hanging, DePatto said, "This was a death investigation. There's no crime unless we uncover one."

At the December meeting of the prison board, Pennsylvania Prison Society prison visitor Ron Harper Jr. said that Villafane had received "a severe beating at the hands of approximately four or five guards" two and one-half weeks before he hanged himself.

But County Commissioner Scott Martin denied that. He said Villafane had fallen and injured his mouth while being accompanied by guards to his cell.

Villafane, 28, had been charged with raping a person less than 13 years old seven years ago, according to court records.

Prison board solicitor Ron Howard has acknowledged that Villafane's family may sue the prison because of the incident. Lancaster attorney Jeffrey Paul represents the Villafanes. ..Source.. by Jack Brubaker

Tapes: Inmate slow to report hanging in cell

3-26-2009 Pennsylvania:

Video shows prisoner passed Luis Villafane’s cell twice, took three minutes to get help.

A Lancaster County Prison inmate walking through his cell block was first to alert correctional officers that Luis David Villafane was hanging himself with a bed sheet in his cell at Lancaster County Prison last November.

But nearly three minutes passed between the time the inmate first walked by Villafane's cell and the time he told the guard what was happening.

Videotapes made by cameras fixed at either end of the hallway on C-2 block, where Villafane killed himself, show the inmate and other activity in the hallway on Nov. 19, 2008.

The New Era obtained copies of the tapes after making a request to Lancaster County government under the state's Right to Know Law.

The tapes, for the most part, support what prison and county officials have said about the incident. But officials had not mentioned the inmate, released from his cell for an hour of exercise, who informed guards.

As some inmates reportedly shouted for Villafane to kill himself and others urged him to stop, the inmate casually walked twice by Villafane's cell at the other end of the block's hallway.

Then he strolled slowly back down the hallway past his own cell, talking with fellow inmates along the way, and alerted the guard on duty.

The guard responded quickly, reaching Villafane's cell within a minute; but he and other officers and medical personnel who followed him could not save Villafane.

The inmate made his first pass by Villafane's cell at 1:51:52 p.m. and the first guard arrived at 1:55:32 p.m, according to the timing on the tape.

Guarini said Wednesday that the time on the videotape clock is slightly different from the 1:48 p.m. time of suicide previously reported.

"We're more worried about sequences than precise time," he said. "The sequence is in accord with the reports we have."

Guarini said he also worried about the slow response of the inmate to a suicide in progress.

"The thing that PO's us was the speed at which he responded," he said. "If you see something like that, you should take a little trot (to get help)."

C-2 block is typically used to discipline inmates and is known as "the hole." Inmates are allowed out of their cells for only one hour in 24.

Villafane, a 28-year-old accused child molester, had been sent to the block following a disciplinary hearing. He arrived wearing a sweatshirt, shorts and sneakers just over half an hour before he hanged himself, according to the tapes.

Guarini had said at the December prison board meeting that his staff's performance that afternoon was "appropriate" and "immediate."

The videotapes show a response that seems appropriate in terms of number of personnel committed.

Within two minutes after the first guard arrived, as many as a dozen correctional officers and medical personnel swarmed onto C-2 block.

Officers quickly moved Villafane's body into the hallway outside the small cell so that prison medical personnel could try to revive him.

Several nurses knelt around the body until 2:15, at which time they stood up and apparently gave up the attempt.

Whether the prison's response was "immediate" cannot be determined. Some prison critics have questioned why a correctional officer would not have responded to all the prisoners screaming about Villafane.

"It was loud on that cell block. The guys were making a commotion at (Villafane)," Guarini explained. "Were they louder than they had been in the past? No."

There is no audio on the tape. Guarini said "very few" of the prison's 270 cameras — and none of the cell-block hallway cameras — have audio capability.

He said there are no cameras in individual cells. The insides of cells are not visible from hallway cameras.

The county refused to release the tapes until after a Lancaster City Police investigation into Villafane's death was completed early this month.

Police will not release the report of their investigation.

Lt. Charles E. Schmidt, officer in charge of special investigations for the city department, did summarize the report. He said an autopsy showed suicide by passive hanging, and "there's no indication that anything else was going on. He had no other injuries."

That statement is important, because there have been conflicting reports about Villafane's condition when he killed himself.

Jean Bickmire, administrative director of the local prison-reform group, Justice & Mercy, said she was in the prison on Nov. 24 and talked with a person who observed Villafane being beaten about two weeks before he killed himself.

"Apparently, guards had tasered and beaten him severely using unnecessary force," she said.

At the December Prison Board meeting, Ron Harper Jr., an official visitor with the Pennsylvania Prison Society, also said Villafane had received a "severe beating at the hands of approximately four or five guards."

But County Commissioner Scott Martin, chairman of the Prison Board, said he was in the prison on the day of the confrontation with guards and "that man was not severely beaten."

He said Villafane injured himself when he fell while guards accompanied him to his cell.

Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni said shortly after Villafane's death that "none of the marks on his body would have contributed to his death."

The county has refused to release the complete autopsy report on Villafane. Based on a recent state Supreme Court decision, the New Era has appealed the county's refusal to the state's Office of Open Records.

The videotapes show many prison guards, medical personnel and what appear to be inmate counselors and city detectives responding to the scene at various times during the afternoon.

Villafane's body was removed from the hallway at 4:22 p.m..

Guarini came to the cell block shortly after 4 p.m. He looked into Villafane's cell and talked with correctional officers and inmates.

He was the last person to leave the hallway.

1:51:52 — Inmate walks by Villafane's cell first time.
1:54:08 — Inmate walks by cell second time.
1:54:45 — Inmate informs guard.
1:55:02 — Guard enters hallway.
1:55:32 — Guard reaches Villafane's cell.
1:56:45 — Additional help arrives.
2:01:55 — Body removed from cell.

2:15:30 — Efforts to save Villafane end. ..Source.. by Jack Brubaker

Autopsy: No sign inmate was beaten

5-22-2009 Pennsylvania:

And autopsy on Amish-girls shooter shows no abnormality “to explain Roberts’ behavior.”

Prisoner Luis David Villafane's autopsy and photographs of his body show no evidence, as fellow inmates have claimed, that he was beaten prior to his death by hanging last November at Lancaster County Prison.

The autopsy of Charles Carl Roberts, who committed suicide after shooting 10 Amish girls in Bart Township in 2006, indicates no abnormality, as some have suspected, that might explain his behavior.

The New Era reviewed the autopsies of the two men Thursday with Coroner Stephen Diamantoni after winning an appeal to the state's Office of Open Records.

Photographs of Villafane's body show no sign that he had been "severely beaten" two weeks before the hanging, as some inmates have told prison monitors.

"We saw no evidence of that," said Diamantoni, who was present during the autopsy.

The only surprise in the Villafane autopsy was that he had cirrhosis of the liver, an "unusual" condition for a 28-year-old man, according to Diamantoni.

The New Era reviewed the autopsy because of allegations that Villafane had been beaten.

But prison officials have explained that Villafane had become unruly and was tasered and escorted by guards back to his cell. They say he fell during this altercation and hurt his mouth.

The inmate required multiple stitches to a cut inside his lip — a wound that did not appear on photos or in the autopsy report.

Even an abrasion on the face might not have been visible two weeks later, Diamantoni speculated.

"Faces heal pretty quickly," he said. "Depending on the location, sometimes it may not be able to be seen clearly two weeks down the road."

Photos clearly show abrasions on Villafane's neck from the bed sheet he used to hang himself.

Villafane's face, especially his nose and ears, were swollen as a result of blood collecting in the head during the hanging, Diamantoni explained.

Other marks on the body came from medical devices used to try to save his life, according to the autopsy. Dr. Wayne Ross, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, described these bruises as "fresh," or having occurred within the past 24 to 48 hours.

Preceding the autopsy report, James Lingg, a deputy coroner, provided a narrative account of Villafane's suicide and efforts to resuscitate him.

Lingg said inmates told him that Villafane had tried to hang himself at another prison and had previously been held in another Lancaster County Prison cell under suicide watch.

"Mr. Villafane's mother had died approximately 1 month ago and so the decedent had made comments that he was depressed and might hurt himself," Lingg wrote.

Villafane's mother, in fact, was and is alive. It is unclear who told Villafane his mother had died or why.

One inmate told Lingg that he heard Villafane call out, "You better call the guards. I'm going to kill myself."

Other prisoners possibly encouraged Villafane, an accused child rapist, to commit suicide, Lingg reported.

One inmate cried "code blue" during the hanging but could not be heard above the noise in the cell block, Lingg said.

The correctional officer who checked on Villafane at first thought he was "acting out" and asked "What are you doing?" Lingg wrote. The guard quickly realized what was happening but could not stop the hanging.

Roberts shot himself in the forehead as police closed in on him at an Amish school in October 2006. He had killed five young Amish girls and severely wounded another five before committing suicide.

Ross examined Roberts' head and found nothing unusual except for the gunshot wound and its effects on the brain.

"There doesn't appear to be any abnormality to explain Mr. Roberts' behavior," Diamantoni said. "Anatomy doesn't necessarily correspond with function. I think people can have significant mental illness and dysfunction of the brain and appear normal (in an autopsy)." ..Source.. by Jack Brubaker

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